Three new herps were recently discovered in northern Australia, including a small frog that lives in large rock formations. The three new species, found in what James Cook University scientist Dr. Conrad Hoskin called a "lost world" includes a leaf-tail gecko (Saltuarius eximius) , a golden-colored skink named the Cape Melville shade skink (Saproscincus saltus), and the blotched boulder frog (Cophixalus petrophilus).
Leaf-tail gecko. Photo by Conrad Hoskin
The leaf-tail gecko (Saltuarius eximius) was also found hidden in the boulders during the day, coming out at night to feed, Hoskin said. The gecko is highly camouflaged and blends well with the boulder fields area in which it can be found. It sports huge eyes and a long and slender body with long limbs. It is a large gecko at around 8 inches in length.
The blotched boulder frog (Cophixalus petrophilus) measures around just over an inch in length from snout to vent and weighs 1.85 grams. It is a creamy yellow with dark brown blotching and a dark bar at the top of its head. It is different from other frogs in that it lives in the boulder fields of Cape Melville and has not been found in any other location. According to Hoskin, during the dry season, the frog lives deep within the rock formations where the conditions are conducive to an amphibian. During the wet season, it moves up to the surface of the rocks to feed and breed.
Blotched boulder frog. Photo by Conrad Hoskin
"You might wonder how a frog’s tadpoles can live in a ‘hollow’ boulder-field with no water sitting around,” Hoskin said in a press release put out by the university. "The answer is that the eggs are laid in moist rock cracks and the tadpoles develop within the eggs, guarded by the male, until fully-formed froglets hatch out. As for the gecko, its eyes are very large – once again an adaptation for life in the dimly lit boulder-piles.”
"This frog lives most of its life deep in the boulder-fields where it is dark, cool and moist, and only comes to the surface when it rains,” he said.
Cape Melville Shade Skink. Photo by Conrad Hoskin
The Cape Melville Shade Skink (Saproscincus saltus) is gold colored and has only been found in moist rocky rainforest habitats on the plateau. It is gold in color and grows to just under 2 inches in length. It is active during the day, hunting insects on the mossy boulders in which it can be found. Its name, salts, means leaping, as it is said to be an adept jumper.